The Dangers of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse racing is a sport in which horses, either harnessed to chariots or ridden by jockeys, compete with each other on a track. It is an ancient sport that has been a popular pastime in many cultures throughout history. In its earliest form, it was a public event and an important part of the Olympic Games. Archeological evidence suggests that it was also a common activity in early civilizations in China, India, Persia, and Arabia. In addition to being a popular recreational activity, the breeding and racing of horses is a substantial economic industry.

In flat races, or those without steeplechases, the pedigree of a horse determines its eligibility to race. To qualify, a horse must have a sire and dam that are both purebred individuals of the same breed as the race horse. In order to race at the highest level, a horse must have won a certain number of times and earned a certain amount of money.

Because horse races are so short, and so intense, the physical and psychological stress on a racehorse can be immense. It is not uncommon for a racehorse to suffer from a breakdown, a severe and potentially fatal injury resulting from exertion or trauma. Horses that cannot recover from a breakdown may be euthanized or sold at auction.

Most racehorses are given cocktails of legal drugs to mask their pain and allow them to continue running, even when the injury would otherwise prevent it. The most commonly used drug is furosemide, better known as Lasix, a diuretic with performance-enhancing properties. The drugs can cause a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding in the lungs.

The RSPCA opposes the use of any equipment on a racehorse that causes discomfort or can cause a serious injury. Two types of equipment that are often used on racehorses but that the RSPCA strongly discourages are tongue ties and spurs. Tongue ties are a large band of leather/rubber or lycra/neoprene that is wrapped around the horse’s lower jaw to keep its tongue in place, restricting its movement during a race. The sharp pressure of spurs on the back of a horse’s riding boots can cause painful, bruising injuries to the legs and hocks. Both of these devices have been banned in some countries.